Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said confirmation from the Economy Minister that she intends to bring forward legislation in the north that will ensure furloughed workers losing their jobs will be eligible for redundancy pay based on their normal wages and not the furlough rate will provide important protection for workers.
The party’s economy spokesperson said:
“Last week the British government brought forward legislation which will ensure furloughed workers losing their jobs will get their full pay-off and I wrote to the Economy Minister asking if she intended to do something similar here in the north.
“This correspondence from the Minister outlining that she intends to bring forward similar legislation will help provide important protection for furloughed workers who are facing redundancy as they will be eligible for redundancy pay based on their normal wages and not the furlough rate.
“While this may be cold comfort to any workers losing their job, it is important that workers get their full entitlements.
“I also called on her to further improve redundancy pay and entitlements by introducing legislation which would provide redundancy payments of three weeks’ pay per year of service for all age groups and to calculate redundancy payments to include regular overtime payments."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has described today's announcement that sectors of the economy will not reopen in line with the planned roadmap as a major disappointment for workers and employers.
Deputy McDonald re-emphasised the need for caution and to be guided by public health advice. However she stated that the latest setback will increase anxieties in sectors, and additional recovery packages now need to be put in place.
Speaking today, Teachta McDonald said: "The increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks is of great concern and serves as another reminder that the threat of this virus is very real and has not gone away.
"There is a responsibility on all of us to heed the public health advice. Great sacrifices have been made by all to get ahead of this virus to the point where we could start reopening the economy.
"With every step of reopening the economy comes risk, and we must exercise caution with every step we make.
"We cannot take excessive risks that threaten public health or delay important steps, such as plans to reopen schools.
"I welcome the announcement that face coverings will now be mandatory in shops and shopping centres.
"But this is now the second time pubs have had a false dawn. I completely understand the frustration that employers and employees in this sector feel.
“Many pub owners have spent considerable sums to ensure that they are compliant with social-distancing and hygiene guidelines in anticipation that they would be in a position to reopen next Monday.
“Sinn Féin has advocated an approach to the opening of this sector based on whether social distancing can be adhered to and measures put in place to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene, while regular checks be carried out to ensure guidelines are being adhered to.
“If the medical advice is that these alternative options are too risky than additional bespoke compensation and recovery packages need to be put in place.
"Public health is our number one priority but there needs to be greater consultation from state bodies with the sector as to the best way forward, or we risk losing businesses and jobs for good."
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has extended condolences to the family of former UTV presenter Brian Black who passed away after his car plunged into the water at Strangford Harbour.
The South Down MLA said:
“The news of this accident has sent shockwaves throughout the community.
“It has left people reeling and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected at this time especially the family and friends of Brian Black.
"I would like to commend those who entered the water including the Portaferry RNLI and Portaferry Coastguard to help recover Brian from the water.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has condemned the hijacking of a number of delivery vans across Derry over recent days.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The hijacking and burning of postal and delivery vans by masked individuals across Derry on Monday and today is wrong and I absolutely condemn it.
“This serves no purpose other than destroying people’s livelihoods and causing major disruption to people living in the local community, particularly those waiting on parcels.
“It’s even more disgraceful that these attacks have taken place while the city mourns on the eve of the funeral of John Hume.
“The people of Creggan do not want this type of activity. Those responsible must stop and get off the backs of the community.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay South Chris Andrews has called on the HSE to step in and take over the St Mary’s Nursing Home on Merrion Road, Dublin, after the High Court appointed a liquidator to the company that operates the centre.
The news is of major concern to the 54 residents and their families, as well as the 65 staff employed at the centres, 20 of whom contracted Covid-19 while working on the frontline in recent months.
Speaking today, Teachta Andrews said: "St Mary’s provides an essential convalescent service to patients from right across the city of Dublin and the state.
"With a sizable capacity of 54 beds, it is a vital resource that generally has an occupancy of over 90%, which demonstrates how important and necessary the centre is to our health service.
"Moving residents, many of whom have been living in this centre for a number of years, in the midst of the current pandemic would be a cause of great trauma and stress on residents and their families.
"I also have strong concerns for the 65 staff employed at the centre.
"This a workforce that endured much during this pandemic with over 20 contracting Covid-19 while fulfilling their responsibilities on the frontline.
"With one third of the staff working at St Mary’s for less than two years, they will not receive redundancy and now will not receive any payment for July.
"We must ask ourselves if this is how we want the frontline workers who did so much to provide care for those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic to be treated.
"The HSE and Minister for Health must act fast to prevent the closure of St Mary’s. I’m calling on the HSE to examine the requirements and feasibility of such a move.
"I have written to both the Minister for Health and the Sisters of Charity asking them to meet with the Save St Mary’s Nursing Home group."
Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has called on RTÉ to end its block on northern viewers entering premium RTÉ competitions.
Speaking after meeting Minister for Communities Carál Ní Chuilín, Senator Ó Donnghaile said;
“When this problem first came to light, RTÉ cited regulations in the North as the reasons for the bar on audiences here entering ‘premium’ competitions.
“This move caused considerable upset amongst regular and longstanding viewers and listeners from the North, who justifiably felt further excluded by the broadcaster, not least when competitions involving GAA county teams were concerned.
“I welcome today’s opportunity to discuss this issue with Minister Carál Ní Chuilín and the next steps in addressing the problem; we will be working closely with her and Sinéad Ennis MLA, who sits on the Communities Committee, and Senator Elisha McCallion, to engage with RTÉ in the time ahead in order to ensure the necessary steps are taken, North and South, to help make sure that there are no further barriers in place for RTÉ audiences in the Six Counties.
“I welcome the Minister’s commitment to engage with RTÉ and bring forward solutions to this block on viewers in the north.”
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has said more must be done to drive down the level of agriculture crime across the north.
The party’s agriculture spokesperson was speaking following the latest report showing that rural crime has risen by 18 percent to £3.3 million a year across the North.
Declan McAleer said:
"The report from NFU Mutual also makes clear that the costs to individual farms are huge given the increasing expense of farming equipment.
“This is in turn feeding a growing fear of crime within the farming community and the fact that many farmers are resorting to costly security measures in order to try and protect their properties.
“On top of the implications of COVID-19 and Brexit rural crime will put additional pressures on farmers and many others in the agri-food and agriculture sectors.
"The farming community and the agriculture economy play a central role in our society and the PSNI need to ensure that every possible measure is taken to ensure they are adequately protected."
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould has today called on the government to establish an oversight body to track and record homeless deaths.
Teachta Gould said: “I have asked the Minister for Health which body was responsible for oversight of homeless deaths. Neither the Department of Health or the Department of Housing track these deaths nationally.
“We have seen 10 homeless people sadly pass away in recent weeks, but we have no way of officially monitoring these figures or finding possible trends that might protect other people in this situation.
"An investigation needs to be launched immediately into these recent deaths.
“Recent reports highlighting the increased risk of sexual assault and violence for homeless people is extremely worrying. These incidents need to be monitored and trends identified to best protect vulnerable people.
“The government needs to take control of this Housing Crisis and acknowledge that the impact it is having can be fatal.
“Without oversight and monitoring, we are telling homeless people we do not value them. This needs to change.”
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has reiterated calls for the Education Minister to bring forward a clear and comprehensive plan for a safe return to school.
The North Belfast MP said:
“It’s now the first week of August and the clock is ticking towards a return to school.
“Parents are becoming increasingly worried having received conflicting advice about how a return to school will look and what procedures will be in place.
“All of this reiterates the need for a clear and comprehensive plan on exactly what will happen when schools reopen.
“Despite having months to prepare, Education Minister Peter Weir appears void of ideas or a plan for a safe return to school.
“The Education Minister must bring forward proposals as a matter of urgency. Parents and schools need clear guidance urgently on what a return to school will look like.”
Sinn Féin TD and the new Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Brian Stanley, has expressed disappointment at the three Government parties for delaying the first meeting of the PAC.
The Committee has not met since January and was supposed to meet on Thursday (August 6th) to set out its work programme for the next term but the meeting will now not go ahead after the Government ignored several deadlines for submitting their membership list.
Deputy Stanley described the move as another sign of the chaos within the Government coalition.
Teachta Stanley said: "The Public Accounts Committee has a very important role to play in the 33rd Dáil, but a number of parties have delayed it from getting on with its job.
"There was a deadline set for all parties to have their membership list submitted by noon Wednesday July 29th.
"This was raised at the Dáil Reform Committee and an extension was agreed for close of business Wednesday evening. Again, this deadline was missed by the Government coalition.
"The Government then chose to submit their nominations very late Thursday night, giving no time for a motion to come before the Dáil on its last sitting day before the recess.
"Now this can't be done until the Dáil resumes in September.
"It is unacceptable that some parties can obstruct the work of the PAC due to the fact that they can't get their act together.
"This follows a delay in the appointment of chairpersons to Oireachtas committees, and a delay in the establishment of the Houses of Oireachtas Commission.
"I am appealing to all parties to stop frustrating the process and to cooperate to ensure the Committee can do its job.
"As Chair of the PAC, at our next meeting I will also be bringing forward recommendations by the Dáil Reform Committee to have the remit of PAC expanded to empower the Committee to follow taxpayers’ money wherever it is spent and whenever the need arises."
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed the announcement that student nurses will continue to be paid at the higher rate which they were entitled to tackling COVID-19.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“For many students nearing the completion of their studies the call to help in the fight against COVID-19, though challenging, was one they answered.
“I am glad the Department of Health has recognised this contribution and continued paying students the higher rate of pay until they can register post-graduation.
“It is vital to recognise the invaluable effort and courage that many students stepped forward and entered the workforce at a time of an unprecedented public health pandemic.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has called on the Health Minister to act urgently to make sure Health and Social Care workers are reimbursed for pay lost during strike action.
The health spokesperson said:
"Health and Social Care workers have still not received reimbursement for wages lost as a result of strike action they were forced to take for fairer pay.
"The money to pay for this reimbursement has been given to the Department of Health and should now be given to the workers.
"These workers have worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to save lives and keep people safe.
"It is time the health minister shows that he values these workers by ensuring they are reimbursed as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture committee Declan McAleer has called on the DAERA Minister to provide compensation to the farmers in the Sperrins affected by severe landslides in August 2017.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
“The landslides, which took place in the Glenelly and Owenkillew valleys on the night of 22-23rdAugust 2017 caused devastation on an unprecedented scale.
“Farmers had their livelihoods wiped out overnight and whilst I acknowledge that the Department was helpful in terms of applying force majeure to protect the SFP and financing the Loughs Agency led riparian fencing scheme, the sheer loss has had a profound impact on these farmers who are still carrying the financial and emotional burden.
“This has been compounded in recent months by the COVID crisis which caused the closure of marts, a rise in input costs and a drop in farmgate prices. The losses inflicted by the 2017 landslide has left these farmers less well able to cope with the latest crisis than their counterparts.
“Along with other elected representatives and farming organisations we have been highlighting this issue for the past three years and it is very reassuring that the newly elected President of the UFU, Victor Chestnutt has identified support for these farmers as a key issue that needs to be addressed.
“I have raised the issue of compensation both formally and informally with Minister Poots and I understand from our engagements that any support will require his ministerial direction. In recent correspondence to the Minister I pointed out that his officials were on the ground immediately after the landslide and in the days and weeks following to assess the damage.
“As such, DAERA knows the sheer extent of the damage and what it will take to compensate those affected. At this stage, three years later, it is important that the Minister moves to support these farmers without any further unnecessary delay."
The West Tyrone MP said:
"The local community is in shock following the death of a 35-year-old man in a collision involving a quad bike on the Gorticashel Road in Omagh.
"Any death on our roads is one too many.
"My thoughts are with the family and friends of the man who has lost his life at this sad and tragic time."
Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep sense of personal loss” at the death of John Hume.
Gerry Adams extended to John’s wife Pat and the entire Hume family his “sincere condolences and solidarity on the death of John.”
He said: “When others were stuck in the ritual politics of condemnation, John Hume had the courage to take real risks for peace. His decision to meet with me in September 1986, following an invitation from Fr Alex Reid, was a breakthrough moment in Irish politics.
"John’s agreement to examine the potential of building an alternative to conflict was the mark of a political leader genuinely prepared to look at the bigger picture and to put the wider interests of society above narrow party politics.
"This was at a time when the great and the good in the political and media establishments on these islands were committed to marginalising and demonising Sinn Féin.
"It took even greater courage to stick with it after we made our first Hume-Adams joint statement in April 1993. For daring to break the establishment consensus of talking to me, John was the target of a vitriolic and deeply hurtful and personalised campaign, much of it driven by sections of the southern media.
"Looking back, we should not forget that this was for the offence of talking to another elected political representative. John also faced fierce criticism from some within his own party.
"Despite all this, John stayed with our process of dialogue. We continued to work together throughout it all. For that he deserves great credit.
"So does Pat who was John’s mainstay, his life partner and constant adviser and supporter. She always made me welcome. Fr Alex often told me that Pat was the biggest influence on John and he often talked to her about our process. I thank her for all she has done.
"Over the many years of private conversation I got to know John well and we came to trust and respect each other’s opinions, and to accept that our common objective was to end conflict on the island of Ireland and create the conditions for a lasting peace with justice.
"John was very down to earth and easy to talk to. Our conversations were never combative. He listened attentively to my opinions while ably arguing his own views when we disagreed. I have many happy memories of my engagements with John.
"The Good Friday Agreement in 1998, 12 years after we first met, was a landmark moment for both of us.
"But one of my favourite memories is of John and I standing in the White House during St Patrick’s Day celebrations in March 1995 singing the ‘Town I Loved So Well’ to an appreciative and much bemused Irish American audience.
"John’s contribution to Irish politics cannot be underestimated. When others talked endlessly about peace, John grasped the challenge and helped make peace happen.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep sense of personal loss” at the death of John Hume.
Gerry Adams extended to John’s wife, Pat, and the entire Hume family his “sincere condolences and solidarity on the death of John”.
Gerry Adams said:
“When others were stuck in the ritual politics of condemnation John Hume had the courage to take real risks for peace. His decision to meet with me in September 1986, following an invitation from Fr Alex Reid, was a breakthrough moment in Irish politics. John’s agreement to examine the potential of building an alternative to conflict was the mark of a political leader genuinely prepared to look at the bigger picture and to put the wider interests of society above narrow party politics.
“This was at a time when the great and the good in the political and media establishments on these islands were committed to marginalising and demonising Sinn Féin.
“It took even greater courage to stick with it after we made our first Hume-Adams joint statement in April 1993. For daring to break the establishment consensus of talking to me, John was the target of a vitriolic and deeply hurtful and personalised campaign, much of it driven by sections of the southern media. Looking back we should not forget that this was for the offence of talking to another elected political representative. John also faced fierce criticism from some within his own party.
“Despite all this John stayed with our process of dialogue. We continued to work together throughout it all. For that he deserves great credit. So does Pat who was John’s mainstay, his life partner and constant adviser and supporter. She always made me welcome. Father Alex often told me that Pat was the biggest influence on John and he often talked to her about our process. I thank her for all she has done.
“Over the many years of private conversation I got to know John well and we came to trust and respect each other’s opinions, and to accept that our common objective was to end conflict on the island of Ireland and create the conditions for a lasting peace with justice.
“John was very down to earth and easy to talk to. Our conversations were never combative. He listened attentively to my opinions while ably arguing his own views when we disagreed. I have many happy memories of my engagements with John. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 twelve years after we first met was a landmark moment for both of us. But one of my favourite memories is of John and I standing in the White House during St Patrick’s Day celebrations in March 1995 singing the ‘The town I loved so well’ to an appreciative and much bemused Irish-American audience.
“John’s contribution to Irish politics cannot be underestimated. When others talked endlessly about peace John grasped the challenge and helped make peace happen.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill has paid tribute to the late John Hume who passed away aged 83.
Michelle O'Neill said:
"I was saddened to hear of the death of former SDLP leader John Hume this morning.
"John was a huge figure in Irish politics for many years and was known the world over for his peace making efforts.
"He was a leader who worked tirelessly for the community and his beloved Derry.
"His work alongside Gerry Adams in the Hume-Adams talks were instrumental in creating the space for developing and progressing the peace process which led to the Good Friday Agreement.
"I send my condolences to his party colleagues and all those he worked with throughout the years. He will be sadly missed.
"My thoughts are with his widow, Pat, his children, grandchildren, his entire family circle and all who knew him."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has extended her deepest condolences on the death of John Hume, who passed away this morning.
She said: "It is with great sadness that I have learned this morning of the passing of John Hume.
"On my own behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin, I want to extend my sincerest and deepest condolences to John's wife Pat, to their children, to their wider family, to John's wide circle of friends and to his colleagues in the SDLP.
“John was a towering figure in Irish politics, who took decisions that were not popular in his own ranks in the pursuit of peace.
"His actions helped to shape the peace process and he was central to the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
"John leaves a lasting legacy and the international and national esteem in which he is held is immense. There is no better example of that than his receipt of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.
"Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
Sinn Féin Pearse Doherty TD has said the time is right to prepare for Irish unity and called on the Irish government to actively get involved in the campaign to secure and win a unity referendum.
Delivering the main address at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration, which was held online this year, Pearse Doherty said:
"The Good Friday Agreement, voted for by the people, contains provision for a referendum on Irish unity. Securing that referendum should now be the shared goal of everyone who supports the reunification of this island and its people.
"The discussion on Irish unity is already well underway across the island. Republicans, nationalists and others who support unity are talking about what Irish unity will look like and how to secure it.
"Even those currently opposed to reunification are talking about it and considering what their place in a united Ireland would be.
“So it simply doesn't make any sense for those who claim that the time is not right.
"I have a message for them; the time is right and the time is now.
"The conversation has begun. There is a role for everyone in that discussion and I'm calling on as many people as possible to get involved.
“In particular, the Irish government has a key role to play. As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government has a responsibility to ensure its full implementation.
"We need to see this new Irish government actively planning for unity. Warm words won’t secure or win a referendum.
"The Irish government needs to establish a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Unity, bring forward a white paper, and convene a Citizens’ Assembly inclusive of the entire island to discuss and plan for reunification.
"This is the time to step up the campaign for Irish Unity."
Responding to a statement from the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that the government will introduce random Covid testing at Airports, Sinn Féin spokesperson on David Cullinane said that testing must be comprehensive and put in place urgently.
Speaking today, Teachta Cullinane said: “I welcome this announcement by the Minister for Health that random testing will commence at airports.
"We in Sinn Féin have consistently called for this only to have our proposals rubbished by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
“I welcome this change in direction and it is important that we get clarity on exactly what is being proposed for both those departing and arriving at airports.
"We also urge maximum all-island alignment on the issue.
“Over the last few months, Sinn Féin has consistently called for checks and restrictions to be put in place at our airports. These included:
“In addition, we called for all visitors arriving from high-risk ‘Red List’ areas should be required to pay for their Covid-19 testing and accommodation at designated isolation facilities, and only be permitted to enter the state after the isolation period has passed, or two negative Covid-19 tests have been recorded.
“Such stringent checks on those coming from Covid-19 hot spots will help deter all non-essential travel and reduce the chance of the virus being imported from these areas.
“It is imperative that we have robust checks in place at our ports of entry to try and detect those carrying Covid-19.
"The progress made to date has come at a huge cost and we cannot let this be undone now. We will study the minister’s proposals when we see the detail.”